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10 Lessons from My First Indie Book

By Judy Christie

A year ago I didn’t know what a hybrid author was.

Now I am one.

This past week my first indie book, “Wreath, A Girl,” a new edition of a YA novel, joined my traditionally published books.

The process has been exhilarating…and exhausting. While the lessons haven’t marinated long, I hope they will help if you’re considering self-publishing:

1. Despite all the EZ-guides-to-making-millions-in-indie-publishing, I experienced a learning curve of evening-and-weekend proportions. For example, I had no idea the range of options for cover designs—from off-the-rack to custom jobs. Allow time for indie research-but don’t use research as a procrastination tool.

2. Keep a precise project to-do list with deadlines. There are a lot of details in publishing even one book.

3. Upfront expenditures vary; you will either spend time or money for such things as formatting. I paid a few hundred dollars for the cover. Since this novel had been previously published, I did not have the cost of an edit. On future projects I expect to pay an experienced editor at least two thousand dollars. I paid to update content on my website and for help with a promotional campaign.

4. Being in charge of cover design was scarier than expected. Was this the right font? What about that color scheme? But there was also a creative burst in making those decisions.

5. When I tweaked the original title from “Wreath” to “Wreath, A Girl,” a handful of readers thought it was a new book. I still don’t know if I should have changed it.

6. Letting people know the book is out there requires good planning and the kindness of friends. While that is also true in traditional publishing, I felt a heavier weight with this effort. I blogged, did an offer with free downloadable gifts, sent out an e-newsletter and shared via social media.

7. I used CreateSpace for the paperback version and am pleased with the quality. This answered a nagging question I’d had about indie pubbing: Can it really be more than e-books?

8. This experiment resembled a business start-up. I made a strategic plan and recruited my husband, middle-school-science-teacher-by-day and indie-publishing-support-team-by-night. This book will complement the second Wreath Willis novel I plan to release as an indie in 2015. I have operated a small consulting business for a dozen years, and I liked the writer-preneur sense of this.

9. I don’t know how much money I’ll make on this one book. My goal is to break even and build profit with future books. The launch moved my Amazon rankings higher, but it will take more books to sustain growth.

10. Don’t panic. I had to remind myself many times during the process that this is a long-term journey. The excitement I felt in seeing one of my books out there with a new life helped quell anxiety.

What lessons have you learned on your writing journey? Are you considering indie publishing? I’d love to hear your feedback.

Adobe Photoshop PDFAuthor Judy Christie lives in Louisiana, a state that provides plentiful fodder for stories such as her YA novel “Wreath, A Girl,” about a 16-year-old girl who lives in a junkyard until she can graduate from high school. Judy is also the author of “Magnolia Market,” published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing. For more info, see www.judychristie.com.

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6 Responses to 10 Lessons from My First Indie Book

  1. Judy, Glad you’re out there blazing a trail. We’ll be watching closely. And good luck with the project.

  2. Thanks, Doc! And congrats on your new book deal with Abingdon! Judy

  3. Judy, I would encourage you to plug into a Christian indie group like the ACFW FB indie group. I’ve learned so much about these decisions through indies who have been there, done that! And indies are always so eager to help and share info. Your book is lovely! And yes, many indies do softcovers as well as e-books. They’re great for book signings, giveaways, libraries, etc.

  4. Jan thompson says:

    I second Heather re: indie support groups – many to choose from. Lots of indies are ahead of other indies so no one needs to reinvent the wheel. Private Christian Indie Author groups (such as the one I’m in with 651 members and counting) discuss indie shop talk 24/7.

    One big reason we have our Christian Indie Authors group is to make life easier for the Christian indie author. No need to guess or wonder about what to do and where to go from here. Anytime you have a book production or publishing or marketing question feel free to ask. Someone has the answer. No need to be alone in the indie world.

  5. Welcome to the world of Christian Indie Authors. A world where you are your own boss, and that can be a good and a bad thing. I hope you enjoyed the process. I?ve been self-published since 2010 and I love it.

    Being an Indie has been a wonderful experience. It?s taught me so much and over the years I?ve learned how to make covers and now I have my own design website. I?ve managed to get one audio book out; it?s just amazing what an author can do these days if they set their mind to it.

    Facebook has been helpful in allowing us Indies to create groups so if you need help just type in Christian Indie Authors and you?ll find all the help you need. Jan runs a great group for authors. I have about 15 different groups ranging from cover design to editing, audio books, you name it . . . it?s out there. Welcome to the world of Indie!!

    Samantha Fury

  6. Thanks, all, for the words of welcome and encouragement. I’ll check out these groups — more of that brave new world I’ve yet to experience!